He screwed up his will and put the two-dollar coin down on the counter, nodding to the clerk standing on the other side. The clerk took the coin with a look of indifference, and pressed some buttons on the blue machine beside him.
The coin was the last of his money. He’d tried to be frugal, to keep the funds, but it was no use – the world demanded its share plus interest, and it always got it. His marriage had ended six months ago, and recently he’d lost his job. It had been a long, dark period of his life, and didn’t look to improve any in the near future.
He took the slip of yellow paper the clerk had handed him and looked at it. The numbers were foreboding. Dark numbers. Not a lucky one among them. Not that he believed much in luck. This was all a numbers game. The actual numbers were irrelevant – the ticket was as likely to win with these numbers as with any others.
On his way out the store his attention was drawn to the brown heap of rags seated by the door. He’d seen this homeless man dozens of times, if not hundreds, sitting here or down the road a bit near the park. The man never accosted anyone, never asked for a handout except for the oil-stained cap he left on the pavement in front of him.
Sudden guilt gripped him. He was feeling sorry for himself, and gambling his last two dollars away while this homeless guy sat there shivering as December winds cut through his dirty May clothing. He looked at the ticket, then at the homeless man again. As clear as if it had been whispered in his ear, he was suddenly compelled to act.
He leaned down to the homeless man and extended his hand. Eyes swiveled in the dark face – clear, intelligent eyes – and looked at the ticket being presented.
“Here,” he said to the homeless man, “ take it. It’s not money, and it won’t buy you food or shelter, but maybe in a couple days you can check if it won.”
The homeless man took the ticket wordlessly, but his eyes were filled with thanks.
The man turned and walked away. He’d given away the last of his money, but he felt light, springy. Sadness and weariness would grip him again soon, but for a brief moment, that didn’t seem to matter. For a few moments, he enjoyed more peace and tranquility than two dollars ought to buy.